The paint may still be drying at the Newark Toll Plaza, but the thousands of motorist speeding through the facilities new high-speed EZ Pass lanes won't have to stop to notice now that the project is completed.
The toll plaza has long been a source of angst for non-residents, some have called it the worst bottleneck on the I-95 corridor. But with the addition of new high-speed lanes, the plaza that serves as the state's unofficial welcome mat could soon get a new image.
Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) toured the facility this morning along with a bleary-eyed Governor Jack Markell, who was up until the wee hours of the morning for the end of the General Assembly session. Despite the lack of sleep, Markell says the timing of the plaza's new lanes opening couldn't be better. "To do this right at the Fourth of July weekend is just fantastic. Our ability to get around this country is so essential to who we are as a people," Markell said.
Markell credited Senator Carper for pushing for the improvements for years, even as far back as when he was Governor. Carper says the new toll plaza will help improve the first impression drivers have of Delaware. "What do we want people to have as their first impression of the First State? Well, we want them to get to our toll plaza and say, 'Well, that was easy, never had to slow down.'"
While the high speed lanes are no guarantee that traffic jams won't occur, the hope is that the backups will be less frequent and not nearly as bad. During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the traffic got so bad that DelDOT lifted the toll, allowing motorists to pass through for free. "We’ll still have some traffic backups," Carper says, "But it will be nothing like it’s been in the past."
The toll plaza averages about 110,000 cars per day, with about 140,000 on holiday weekends. About 55% of those drivers utilize EZ Pass, which should keep things moving this weekend and beyond.